My Street

The annual gift feels momentous this year. The unkempt patch of weeds has recovered from the Landlord’s violent applications of weedkiller and everything looks vibrant, undaunted and hopeful. The eruption of dead nettles, green alkanet and dandelions is appreciated by the bees and me.


Two years ago I perched on a crumbly old brick ledge amidst these weeds with my squared notebook and my recorder. I was trying to translate green alkanet flowers into knitting charts and I was recording the sounds of the insect life living in the unruly patch along with the rumble of traffic along the adjacent main road.

green alkanet-1

I was looking towards Shetland Wool Week 2013 and to giving the very first ever Quotidian Colourwork class. I was thinking about whether knitting and listening to places can increase a sense of belonging and celebration. I remember it very clearly; the light, the slight fear of getting sunburnt, the little sounds of my pencils and paper while I sketched and the clattering of lorries going up and down the hill.


It was a day not unlike this day – in fact it was April 25th – and I felt (as today) really grateful for the flowers. And for the sunlight which seems to carry in itself the ghosts of all the spring times past.


There’s a way that the evening light hits the old Reading brickwork that makes my heart sing.
It’s just so rich and red. It looks like all the iron in the clay is lit from within.

view of street-1

When I sat by the weeds and sketched two years ago I took loads of photos. And today I seem to have taken the same photos. It doesn’t seem to matter that I already photographed the nettles by the concrete breeze blocks, they must be documented again!

Today I realised, it’s not about having the photograph. It’s about taking the photograph.


It’s about how when I stop to record something I am enjoying what it feels like to notice something. This is how I have ended up with so many recordings of blackbirds and cooking, and so many photos, apparently, of nettles.


But there is something extra in noticing this little corner of the world and its annual gift of flowers today. In the time between sitting there are sketching and recording it two years ago, I have knitted it and this process has been described and published in a book.

knitted street-1-3

The research for my chapter about finding inspiration in places was happily conducted in Reading Library and the Berkshire Records Office looking at old deeds and photos…

whitley grove-4

…and marveling at lapsed time.


my street-1

All of the inspiration sources in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook are special to me but what I really love about this one is that it is a reminder that you really don’t have to travel far at all to find incredible beauty.

work in progress-1

I remember the pleasure of getting my photos back and working on the swatch based on My Street. It was so joyous to look through all those photos of weeds, to match them to shades of Jamieson & Smith yarn, to tinker with patterns and to find yet another way to record those nettles.

But on a personal level, the greatest creative pleasure of all came today.


When my amazingly talented brother Fergus Ford came to take the photos for the book the patch at the end of my street was – alas – mostly dead. Any spare dandelion or green alkanet that was there was used in our photo shoot for the book but it wasn’t until today that I have been able to fully unite the swatch I made of My Street with its original inspiration source: the glorious spring time eruption of flowers.

my street-1-2

Processes of recording, documenting, listening, knitting and playing bind me to this place; they reinforce my relationship to the details in my environment. There are touchstones everywhere which mark connections. Here is the green alkanet whose blue is so amazing, here are the bricks I photographed, here is a tree where a robin sang and I listened.

I am invested in every crack in the pavement, every patch of tarmac, every weed and bird that is here; noticing these things is what makes this street My Street.

And I love them all.


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